Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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Released 18-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Scene Selection Audio
THX Optimizer
Featurette-Making Of-Once Upon A Dream - The Making Of Sleeping Beauty (16:22)
Game-Rescue Aurora Adventure
Game-Ink and Paint Studio
Featurette-Art Attack: How To Make A Magic Castle (4:36)
Notes-The History Of The Story
Notes-The 1951 Outline
Featurette-Storyboard Sequences (4:22)
Featurette-The Music Of Sleeping Beauty (2:46); The Design (3:22)
Featurette-Creating The Backgrounds (1:07)
Featurette-Live Action References (1:50)
Featurette-The Restoration (2:57)
Featurette-Widescreen to Pan-and-Scan Comparison (5:58)
Gallery-8 still galleries
Featurette-Four Artists Paint One Tree (16:08)
Short Film-The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (29:08)
Short Film-Grand Canyon (28:55)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 72:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Clyde Geronimi
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Mary Costa
Bill Shirley
Eleanor Audley
Verna Felton
Barbara Luddy
Barbara Jo Allen
Taylor Holmes
Bill Thompson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Pyotr Tchaikovsky
George Bruns


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sleeping Beauty was the sixteenth full length animated feature film to be released by the Walt Disney Company, making its silver screen debut on 30th January, 1959. In the near twenty two years since the release of the ground breaking Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, the company had already made most of its classic films - notably the first five: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. Whilst the next six were not of the calibre of those first five, the company then came back with another five films that rank amongst the better of the canon: Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp and of course Sleeping Beauty. Most of these films were released at one or two year intervals, but the gap between Lady And The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty was by Disney standards a whopping four years. It is important to know this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has to be seen that Sleeping Beauty was in virtually every way a product of what went before - or at least a reaction to what had gone before. As you can see from the list of animated features mentioned, that was a very, very important collection of classic films. Secondly, the fact that this film took a long time to eventuate indicates the fact that in many ways this was the film that defined a new direction in the approach to animated features by the Walt Disney Company.

    Whilst certainly not as ground breaking as some of the later Disney animated features, it was distinctly different from what went before in its style and detail. This was a much more three dimensional film, and a vastly more detailed film with a style that is only truly approached by more recent efforts such as Tarzan. However, while its production design looked towards the future, the story looked towards the past.

    Good King Stefan (Taylor Holmes) and his Queen longed for a child and had finally been blessed with the arrival of Princess Aurora (Mary Costa). Celebrations are held in honour of the new Princess and at those celebrations a few things happen. First, King Hubert (Bill Thompson) arrives with his young son Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley) and it is announced that the two young royals are officially betrothed. Secondly, the three Good Fairies, Mistresses Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen) and Merryweather (Barbara Luddy) arrive to bestow upon the new princess one gift each. Beauty and song are bestowed by Flora and Fauna but before Merryweather can bestow her gift there is the obligatory gatecrasher to the celebration - the wicked witch Maleficent (Eleanor Audley). She decides to curse the young princess, casting a spell that Aurora will die before her sixteenth birthday is over by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Merryweather does what she can to ameliorate the curse with a modification: she shall not die but will only sleep until true love's first kiss shall awaken her. Determined to ensure that nothing happens to Aurora, Stefan has all the spinning wheels in the kingdom burnt and the three Good Fairies take Aurora off to raise her in the safety of the forest. Jump sixteen years and the now grown Aurora (known as Briar Rose to the Good Fairies) is celebrating her sixteenth birthday and it looks like she has cheated Maleficent - as well as meeting the man of her dreams. But is this all to end happily?

    Well, this is Disney isn't it, so of course it will end happily. Yes, the story as usual is very simple but in some respects it too is different - there really is a whole lot less of that Disney syrup poured all over this one, at least in comparison to say Pinocchio. It works well however, and the story is infused by one of the most evil characters in a Disney animated feature in Maleficent. Yes, there is lots of cherry stuff but there is also a darker side to the film that truly harkens back to Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. But this film is not so much about the story but rather the style of the production. Eyvind Earle was hired by the Walt Disney Company and the first job he got was to design the look of this film. What he produced was almost the antithesis of the cutesy, flattish style of most of the animated features that preceded it. This is a very horizontal and vertical style with an amazing amount of depth to it, depth that only really has been rivalled by the more recent computer animated features. It has been said many times by many people that the production design is the reason why Sleeping Beauty has aged far better than many of the earlier features. The fact is that this is true, and you only have to look at the detail in some of the forest scenes to see how vastly different, and better, Eyvind Earle was in this film, even by today's standards.

   Funnily enough, even though I am an avid collector of Disney animated features, this was one film that always left me quite cold. I never saw the film theatrically (not even during its periodic theatrical re-releases) and only ever knew it from video. Accordingly, it was a film that I came to quite late. In that respect, this DVD is a revelation and answers all the questions as to why I never liked the film on video. Let this DVD open your eyes, too - it is not the best Disney animated feature ever made but it is certainly one of the better ones, and this DVD presentation ensures that we see the film like we have never seen it before.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    One of the big problems I always had with the video release of Sleeping Beauty was the fact that it really was a very ordinary, dull looking tape that basically looked its age and more. Obviously the Walt Disney Company agreed for they have subjected the film to a full, computer aided restoration that has seen every single one of the over 118,000 frames being completely cleaned up and restored. It is only the second film to undergo this complete restoration process, the first of course being the magnificently restored Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. The VHS tape I have at the moment was issued in 1997 and therefore pre-dates the complete restoration of the film. The difference between it and this DVD release is quite staggering. It is almost like this is a completely new film in every way.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. The importance of that widescreen ratio cannot be understated. In comparison to the pan and scanned video tape, this really is a different film. All the congestion that used to afflict the video tape is gone and in its place we can see the magnificent open vista that the production team strove so hard to attain.

    The opening credits roll and you start to get a queasy feeling - there is a lot of grain in the opening part of the credits and it sort of sets you thinking that this is the way the whole transfer will be presented. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! Once you get past that first minute, this is about as good a transfer as you could possibly expect. The soft, poor definition of the VHS tape is replaced with a superb sharpness and definition that completely ignores the fact that this is a forty four year old film. All that beautiful detail that Eyvind Earle spent years putting together can finally be seen almost for the first time on home video. The clean up job has been superbly done and you will be hard pressed to find even a trace of the film dirt that blighted the source material for so long. Aside from those first moments in the opening credits, there is nothing in the way of residual film grain left in the material and low level noise has completely disappeared (it used to be a problem on the video tape). Shadow detail is now terrific, something that at times was a disaster on video tape. The whole transfer really has a wow factor to it that has been missing from this film for many a year on home video.

    Where the restoration has truly excelled is in the majesty of the colours finally being realised. The old video tape was a flattish lifeless thing that really was a darker tone than it should have been - all of course due to the film dirt. The restoration has seen the colours restored to their original magnificence and luminosity. However, the restoration has failed in one little respect - the transfer does not handle reds at all well. Thankfully there is not much solid red in the transfer but on those few occasions... The small pinky-red bird in the forest scene around the 22:00 minute mark shows the real problem - slight over saturation and distinct colour bleed. The same can be said for the prince's red cape around the 23:00 mark. The latter also shows the slight inconsistency in the transfer with respect of the colours - later in the film the cape is far less red and not subject to colour bleed nor over saturation. The digital clean up certainly highlights a problem that is most likely inherent in the original source material. Other than that there is nothing wrong at all with the colours.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were pretty much absent from the transfer, other than some very minor but rather consistent line aliasing - most notably involving Maleficent's raven. Nothing to really worry about but there nonetheless. Film artefacts were hardly a problem either, which is as to be expected with such a superb restoration job. The only obvious artefacts I noticed were a couple of flecks in the opening credits.

   This is a Dual Layer formatted disc as far as I can tell, as there is no obvious layer change.

   There are just the two subtitle options on the DVD, being English and English for the Hearing Impaired efforts. As far as I can tell, there is nothing wrong with them at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtrack options on the DVD, with the first appearance of a dts soundtrack on one of the older animated features. The options are an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English dts 5.1 soundtrack and an English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Now before the purists really start spluttering in their coffee, let me assure you that the six channel remasters have been handled with a degree of sensitivity to the nature of the original stereo soundtrack. Nonetheless, it is disappointing that we do not get the original stereo soundtrack as an option on the DVD. I listened to the dts soundtrack in its entirety, sampled over half of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and briefly sampled the English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well and is easy to understand. Of course there are the usual synching issues associated with this older animation.

    The musical score is adapted by George Bruns from the original ballet score written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Since that score is not amongst the finest work of the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky but is nonetheless still very good, the music here is rather special indeed. It was a very wise move to use the original ballet music and it has been used to great effect in supporting the film and the story.

    You will recall that I had some qualms regarding the six channel remaster done for the re-release of Pinocchio. I have far fewer qualms regarding this release.

    The dts soundtrack is a stunner in many ways, and is extremely sensitive to the nature of the film itself. It is a nice, full bodied sounding effort that is not really laden with bass but fleshes out the sound rather well. There is little in the way of rear surround channel use and most of the action is concentrated across the front sound stage. This is as it should be - nothing overt is needed out of the rears apart from supporting the likes of the thunder.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is not quite as successful, as it is not as full a sound and certainly is a bit too obvious in the bass. I would guess this is the nature of the difference between dts and Dolby Digital sound, but I would really have thought that the Dolby Digital soundtrack would have been a bit more subtle. The bass does go a little overboard with the arrival of Maleficent at 7:06 for instance.

    The descriptive audio soundtrack is quite fine with no real complaints from what I sampled.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a two disc Collectors Edition and we know that means plenty of stuff to wander through! Unlike Pinocchio, everything involving video thankfully has time information encoded. Unless otherwise indicated, all video presentations are in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Menu

    The main menu features some decent audio and animation enhancement, after a lengthy introduction, whilst most of the other menus have some subtle animation enhancement along with the audio enhancement. All menus appear to be 16x9 enhanced and are done in a reasonably appropriate manner to suit the film.

Disc One:

THX Optimiser

Featurette - Once Upon A Dream - The Making Of Sleeping Beauty (16:22)

    In the style somewhere between a strictly EPK presentation and a full-blown making of featurette, this is still somewhat shorter than I would like. A reasonable look at the film however, with the film extracts clearly demonstrating how bad the film used to look before restoration! Some of the interview material is interesting. It suffers somewhat from aliasing and moiré artefacting.

Game - Rescue Aurora Adventure

    Another of those mind numbingly boring games that are clearly designed for a vastly younger age group than mine. Nothing special and in this instance there seems to be no reward, other than Princess Aurora herself, for getting to the castle, which is achieved by selecting the right object when asked the questions along the route.

Game - Ink and Paint Studio

    Where you get the chance to colour in the characters from the film - so you better watch carefully unless you want to hear the "better try again dear" admonishment too often.

Featurette - Art Attack: How To Make A Magic Castle (4:36)

    A special presentation from the Art Attack television crew from the Disney Channel, this time showing us how to turn a kitchen towel roll and some toilet paper rolls into a magic castle. Again aimed at a younger age group than I occupy.

Disc Two:

    Disc two is split into various sections, with plenty of sub-sections to four of them. The main sections are:

    The last three are straight featurettes.

Story:

Notes - The History of the Story

    Ten pages of notes detailing the history of the story Sleeping Beauty.

Notes - The 1951 Outline

    Walt Disney had been trying to make the story into a film for some time and the forty six pages of notes included here provide the outline for the film as proposed in 1951. It makes a very interesting comparison to the final film made at the end of the same decade.

Featurette - Storyboard Sequences (4:22)

    This looks at two sequences of the film in storyboard, over which is played in real time the final film dialogue and music. The presentation is predominantly 2.35:1 in aspect ratio. The two sequences are Sequence 15: The Fairies Put The Castle To Sleep (2:52) and Sequence 17: The Capture of The Prince (1:30). They both suffer to some extent from cross colouration but are otherwise of an acceptable standard. The former is very close to the original film whilst the latter is a little different.

Production:

Featurette - The Music Of Sleeping Beauty (2:46)

    Mainly interview material with Leonard Maltin and Mary Costa regarding the music. Short and sweet.

Featurette - The Design (3:22)

    With interview material from Leonard Maltin, Ollie Johnston, Eric Goldberg (co-director of Pocahontas) and Eyvind Earle, this is interesting but way too short.

Featurette - Creating The Backgrounds (1:07)

    Interview material with Eyvind Earle - definitely way too short and not sweet enough. What this man could have told us about the production design should have filled an hour long documentary, not a minute long featurette.

Featurette - Live Action References (1:50)

    This comprises two main sections: the video of Helene Stanley dancing as reference for the Briar Rose dance sequence (0:48) and a quasi-video presentation of still photographs of the reference shots for the Prince Phillip and the Dragon sequence (1:02). The sound is rather hissy in the first video but otherwise the technical side of things is acceptable given the nature of the material. The video presentation is followed by a small gallery of twenty three photographs of reference material.

Featurette - The Restoration (2:57)

    Why is it that the most interesting stuff seems to get the shorter extras? This is a real gloss-over of what would be the most fascinating aspect of bringing the film back from the equivalent of celluloid hell. More detail, more depth please on this sort of restoration featurette. Otherwise very good.

Featurette - Widescreen to Pan-and-Scan Comparison (5:58)

    For those that still have a problem understanding that widescreen is better, please check this out. Six minutes of pure, simple demonstration with the split screen featuring the 2.35:1 aspect ratio atop and the pan and scan abomination below. What makes it so good is that both frames are the same height, therefore emphasising that fact that you lose in this case 50% of the film in a pan and scan format. Simple and effective, this should be put out on a sampler DVD of its own and given away with every DVD player sold. Remember - widescreen is best!

Sleeping Beauty Galleries:

    Split into six main sections:

Gallery - Layouts and Backgrounds

    The now very familiar presentation of rooms as if in an actual gallery. After four pages of notes in Room One, there follows 90 stills split over four rooms detailing the evolution of the layout of the film and the gestation of the layouts and backgrounds in general.

Gallery - The Sleeping Beauty Storybook

    This takes the form of the storybook pages being turned, showing eleven pages of detail regarding the storybook used to start the film and in the middle of the film. Interesting to see the full blown version of each page, as you don't see it all in the film itself.

Gallery - Posters

    This takes the form of a walk through a hall to view fifteen stills of posters or stylised elements from the film that were used as lobby cards I presume. A little bit boring as once you have seen one poster, everything else is basically a variation on a theme. The hall presentation can be a bit nauseating as you swing from one side of the hall to the other to see the next image, and the presentation certainly loses a bit of focus during that movement.

Gallery - Disneyland Walkthrough

    This also takes the form of a walk through a hall to view fifteen stills of a rather unique exhibition - one that opened in Disneyland in 1957, two years before the film opened! Visitors walked through the castle and saw small dioramas telling the story of the yet-to-be-released film. The images we see in this section are all that remain of the original walk through attraction at Disneyland, which was closed in 1977 and replaced with an updated attraction along similar lines.

Gallery - Concept Art

    Again the now very familiar presentation of rooms as if in an actual gallery. After three pages of notes in Room One, there follows 143 stills split over six rooms detailing the evolution of the concepts of the film.

Gallery - Character Design

    Itself split into five sections, all are in the familiar gallery room concept and comprise:

Sleeping Beauty Scrapbook:

    Split into four sections:

    Nothing terribly exciting.

Featurette - Four Artists Painting One Tree (16:08)

    An interesting programme made back in 1958 during the making of the film that illustrates why collaboration is so important in animation. Four of the artists from the film go on a busman's holiday to paint the same tree. Each comes up with a completely different interpretation of what they see - and all are valid and equally important. Technically this suffers somewhat from a soft look and plenty of film artefacts.

Short Film - The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (29:08)

    This was made for Disneyland television but was eventually released internationally as a featurette for theatrical use. It tells the story of the great composer himself, although obviously not in great detail, and especially the gestation of the ballet Sleeping Beauty. It is a bit grainy and suffers from some film artefacts but is otherwise technically quite acceptable. From a historical accuracy point of view, it is only fair to middling, and reflecting the period it was made in completely ignores his homosexuality - a significant influence upon his music.

Short Film - Grand Canyon (28:55)

    You might wonder what this has to do with the film? Well, this was made to accompany the film on its theatrical run - you remember the shorts that they used to show before the main feature surely? Well, maybe you are too young to remember, but us older folks sure do. Also noteworthy for it is an Oscar winner - 1959 for Best Live Action, Short Subject. It is a pictorial representation of the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferdinand Grofé. The presentation is 2.35:1 and it has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It suffers badly from macro-blocking throughout the film, whilst the music sheets introducing each section of the suite suffer horribly from moiré artefacting, as well as some aliasing. The film itself is quite interesting, if in need of some restoration itself.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release will not be available for a few more weeks and so far I have not located an early review for it. Update: Having now had a chance to look at the Region 1 release reviews, it would appear that it features the following items not on the Region 4 release:

    It would appear that the Region 1 release misses out on:

    Whilst we had the film earlier and we get a very good dts soundtrack, they get an audio commentary. Everything else is pretty much swings and roundabouts stuff, so it boils down to an additional soundtrack as opposed to an audio commentary. Call this one in favour of the Region 1 release simply because of that audio commentary.

Summary

    Another stunning restoration from the Walt Disney Company, which clearly indicates that we should expect to see them attack some of the other classic animated films over the course of the next few years to perform similar miracles. I cannot help but feel that Bambi and Cinderella will be high priorities here and they should look magnificent. However, sticking with Sleeping Beauty for the moment, were it not for some minor problems with colour this would have been a virtually perfect transfer from a video point of view, and a very good audio transfer. The extras package is certainly extensive enough even if there is little that I would consider truly essential stuff. The inclusion of the two short films certainly aids the overall package. Another winner from the Walt Disney Collection that should make quite a few youngsters very happy around the country - and a few not quite so youngsters, too.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
Commentary Track vs DTS, and comments on Disney releases in general - sbr (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
SLEEPING BEAUTY -